Senators urge VA to tighten contract with Oracle Health

Three senators are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to prioritize stronger accountability standards in their ongoing contract negotiations with Oracle Health.

Sens. Jon Tester, Patty Murray and Sherrod Brown — all members of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee — called on the VA to advocate for more accountability measures when it comes to the department's EHR modernization contract with Oracle Health, which is set to end on May 16. 

"We are writing to urge the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to act to protect taxpayers and veterans through stronger accountability provisions in the ongoing contract negotiations with Oracle Health related to the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program," the senators wrote in a letter to VA Deputy Secretary Tanya Bradsher. "Last year, we pressed the Department to overhaul its EHRM contract with Oracle Health to provide VA more tools to hold the contractor accountable when the company did not deliver at expected levels…[and we] were heartened by the Department's May 2023 announcement of a revised contract with Oracle Health."

According to a May 10 press release from Mr. Brown's office, the previous VA contract with Oracle Health lacked effective mechanisms to address performance issues with Oracle Health's EHR system, resulting in system crashes, software failures and safety incidents at the VA medical facilities currently using it. Senators also criticized that the lack of contractor oversight with the previous contract exacerbated these problems. 

In May 2023, the VA negotiated a new contract with Oracle Health which featured improved accountability measures. These include higher performance standards, increased penalties for underperformance and a change to yearly reviews to ensure continuous improvement and accountability. But the senators stated that although there have been slight improvements in Oracle Health's performance over the past year, substantial challenges persist.

"After years of veterans not receiving the care they deserve and VA staff not getting the system they need, the Department must take all steps possible to ensure VA is getting the services it purchased at a fair price and that Oracle Health is living up to its commitments. We encourage you to use the opportunity the new contract structure provides to re-review terms and add additional accountability and oversight provisions to protect veterans and taxpayers," the senators wrote in the letter. 

In 2018, VA signed a five-year contract with Cerner, now known as Oracle Health, to modernize its legacy EHR system. 

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